Collaborating 'OnDesign' for Children in Haiti and Beyond

Collaborating 'OnDesign' for Children in Haiti and Beyond

  • by Architecture for Humanity
  • Jul 10, 2012
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Reporting by HQ intern Julie Pedke. Originally appeared on Students Rebuild Haiti blog

On the beautiful Clark Kerr Campus in Berkeley, California, educators and designers from all over the world gathered recently for the first-ever International Working Forum OnDesign for Children, sponsored by the World Forum Foundation. Our team from Students Rebuild and Architecture for Humanity participated in the conference, leading a design charrette and panel discussions about our work with young people in Haiti, Japan, Kenya, and beyond.

Starting in the morning of June 28, Sandhya Naidu (Haiti Program Manager at Architecture for Humanity) was first to present on a panel about financing projects for young people. She shared the story of Students Rebuild's Haiti Schools Challenge and discussed how students all over the world raised funds and connected with their peers in Haiti after the earthquake. She presented young people as an underestimated resource for raising awareness and charitable support, explaining how they often go on to influence their parents to take part in rebuilding!

In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to go on a tour of the Edible Schoolyard Project, founded by Alice Waters. Here students are growing food and learning how to prepare delicious meals in kitchen classrooms. With such a robust program happening in Berkeley, think how the model could expand to reach students in other areas where fresh food is scarce...

Feast your eyes on this: the entrance to the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley!

Back on campus, Kate Evarts (an Architecture for Humanity Design Fellow who designs new schools in Haiti) held a hands-on design charrette to come up with creative ideas for the College Coeur Immacule de Marie in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

A charrette, pronounced shuh-ret, is a special word for a short and intensive brainstorming session, usually between folks from a variety of backgrounds who are trying to solve a complex issue in quick fashion! Here, OnDesign participants are sketching out ideas for a school in Washington state.

We began the charrette with a couple activities that Kate does with students in Haiti - one was a game in which we took a big ball of red yarn and tossed it around a circle to people we knew, creating a network strong enough to hold things up! We also partnered with architect Mike Lindstrom to help with a preschool he was planning in Washington state. Pencils were flying as groups discussed things like connecting classrooms to the outdoors, making hard materials softer with colors or plants, even putting a volleyball court on the roof. We ended with many great ideas for Kate and Michael to take home with them.

Kate and Zac eagerly watch one of three charrette teams at work. This team discussed how to create space for classrooms, toilet blocks, kitchens, *and* open space for children on a very small site in Port-au-Prince!

Some school design techniques in practice on the Elie Dubois school cafeteria currently under construction in Port-au-Prince.

The day ended with a presentation on Architecture for Humanity’s work with young people across the world. One of our Project Coordinators, T. Luke Young, introduced the speakers: Stephen Muchoki, who is the leader of MYSA, an amazing youth sports and education center in Kenya (find out more here!), Kate Evarts, who spoke more about rebuilding in Haiti, and Zac Taylor, who told the story of Students Rebuild all the way from our first challenge rebuilding schools in Haiti to the current One Million Bones challenge. Support from the conference participants was fantastic - when we started running short on time and offered to skip part of the presentation, everyone in the audience responded with a loud and firm “No!”

The entire day was filled with great people, great conversation, and great ideas. The only thing that seemed to be missing were, ironically, the students. Sure, it’s important for educators and designers to be thinking about safe and inspiring spaces for young people, but maybe our next step is to have a student presence at conferences like this one. When students are able to get involved in the conversation and contribute their voices, who knows what’s possible?

Julie Pedtke is a Design Engagement Intern at Architecture for Humanity and Students Rebuild. Julie is a student at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, where she is designing her own major in architecture and public interest design. This summer she is busy at work in the AFH headquarters supporting Students Rebuild and researching youth participation in design and planning.